Do You Need A License To Open A Spa in 2023?

If you’re just getting started in the beauty and wellness industry, then you may be wondering “Do you need a license to open a spa?” In most cases, you do. Let’s take a closer look.

What You Will Learn

We’ll go over some specific spa license requirements and how to obtain the proper licenses and permits for your new business, along with an overview of the costs involved.

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  1. What License Do You Need To Open A Spa?
  2. How To Get A Spa License?
  3. How Much Does A Spa License Cost?
  4. Spa Services That Don’t Require A License
  5. Conclusion

What License Do You Need To Open A Spa?


Do you need a license to open a day spa? Yes. Usually more than one, if you include the permits.

People often ask “Can I open a spa with an esthetician license?” The answer is yes and no- you’ll need this license to perform treatments at a day spa, but running a spa business requires a bit more than that.

If you’re running your own spa business, you’ll have to obtain licenses and permits, including professional licenses, a business license, plus building and retail permits. Spa businesses also need insurance to operate. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Occupational spa license
Occupational Spa License
  • Spa Business License: Small businesses all need a license to operate, and a new spa is no different. You can apply at your state department or through the U.S. Small Business Administration- you’ll need to give your business name, your name, and social security number.
  • Certificate of Occupancy: This is issued by your state or local government, after you apply for an inspection. They check your building to make sure that is has enough space and the right facilities (water and electrical installations) for the services you’ll offer.
  • Permits: If your day spa business model includes retail products (then your state most likely wants to collect sales tax), so you’ll need a retail seller permit.
  • Building Permits: If you plan to do any renovations to your building, you’ll have to apply for these: they’re issued by the state or municipality and are a legal (and safety) requirement. Your local health department and fire inspector may also require an inspection before you’re allowed to open, so be sure to check.
  • Professionals Licenses: For most spa therapy and beauty treatments, your staff will have to be licensed and properly trained. These include:
    • Massage Therapist’s License: To obtain this, they’ll need to graduate from an accredited massage program and pass an exam. Then, they need to meet state requirements for licensure.
    • Cosmetologist’s License: Anyone performing scalp, facial or body treatments needs this qualification. This usually involves enrollment in a course or program of study, followed by a written and practical exam.
    • Esthetician’s License: These beauty professionals are trained to assess a client’s skin condition and recommend specific treatments or skincare regimens. As such, they have to have graduated from an accredited program and have a state license that’s renewed regularly.
    • Electrologist’s License: If your spa offers electrolysis, then these hair-removal professionals also need to be properly trained and licensed. This might be done as part of a larger cosmetology training course, or as a stand-alone qualification.
    • Manicurist’s License: Any manicurists or nail technicians will also need to be properly trained and licensed. They will have to attend a state-approved training program and pass the licensing exam.

Pro tip: The licensing requirements you’ll face as a small business owner often vary by state, so it’s a good idea to check your state and municipal websites for more information. If you’re running a mobile spa, then your licensing and inspections will be slightly different in most states, too.

We recommend you to check out our post on spa expenses.

Spa establishment license application
Spa Establishment License Application

How To Get A Spa License?


If you want to run a successful spa, then your first step is getting all of your paperwork in order. This protects you, your clients and staff, and just makes everything easier later on.

Here are some of the most important resources you’ll want to check for getting the required licenses and permits in the spa industry.

U.S. Small Business Administration: They issue licenses for small businesses, provide retail seller permits, and have a wealth of information available to help every service provider run a successful business. They even have information about loans and funding available if you’re trying to raise money, plus educational and business resources you can use. State Websites: This is where you’ll find most information about permits and local health and safety inspection requirements, as well as apply for your Federal Employer Identification Number, which is necessary for filing taxes and payroll.

Pro tip: Your municipal or county website will also have resources, tips and local information you can use when setting up your spa business, so make sure to check it out.

Spa permittion
Spa Permittion

How Much Does A Spa License Cost?

Each license has its own costs associated with it, and many of these vary by state. That said, here’s a general overview of what to expect.

  • Licenses: These typically cost between $100-$400 each for small businesses, including the processing fees.
  • Certificate of Occupancy: Expect to pay a minimum of $250 for this. If the building inspector finds anything that needs to be fixed, you’ll have to complete repairs and pay for another inspection.
  • Professional Certifications: You and your staff will have to keep your licensing and certificates up to date, which can cost anywhere from $50-$500, depending on the state’s requirements.
  • Insurance: General liability insurance is a legal requirement and costs between $50 to $250 a month.

Do not miss our post on spa business plan.

Professional spa license
Professional Spa License

Spa Services That Don’t Require A License


Not all services require a license in all cases (of course, this also varies by state). Here are some examples:

  • Alternative Healing: If your target market includes people looking for reiki, aromatherapy or other alternative practices, most states don’t require a license for this (although there is an independent certification board you can register with).
  • Massage (in a few cases): There are some states that don’t require masseuses (people who apply massage oils and perform relaxing massages but aren’t massage therapists) to have a license to practice, but this could change at any time.
  • Hair Braiding: In many states, you don’t need to be licensed to do this (or to shampoo hair).
  • Body Wraps: In some states, you can perform body wraps without a license, but in others, you need to be a cosmetologist or esthetician.
Spa certificate
Spa Certificate



If you’re still wondering “What qualifications do you need to own a spa” then we have good news for you- apart from the certifications and licensing required by state and federal law, anyone with good business sense and a passion for spa management can own one.

So, do you need a license to open a spa? Yes. But that’s true of any small business. Make sure to do your research, decide on your services menu, and check your state’s website when you’re getting started. A little planning goes a long way.


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